THE AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP : A Potted History
Part 1 : A controversial beginning
The history of a National Championship for English billiard players covers a period of over one hundred years and is packed with incident,controversy, unusual characters and wonderful achievements. In a series of articles, we hope to produce a brief chronicle which conveys a
flavour of this famous event since its earliest years. We start at the beginning….
With the formation of the Billiard Association in 1885 came the
question of starting “an amateur championship of Great Britain
and Ireland”. The first reference to the subject appeared at a committee
meeting which was held in 1886 where it was decided to proceed with
arranging a contest, but this evidently ran into some difficulty and the
idea appears to have been dropped. It was therefore left to Messrs.
Orme and Sons, a well-known billiard table manufacturer in Manchester,
to take the matter into their own hands, and in 1887 they made
arrangements to stage the first amateur championship of the British
Isles and Ireland. The company provided a silver cup valued at £100,
which they stipulated would become the property of the player who
held it for three consecutive years or won it six times.
Orme & Sons’ Championship of Great Britain & Ireland
The first competition attracted 44 entries who were drawn to compete
at three locations. Players from Northern England (which involved all
those residing north of Warwickshire, and including Ireland) met at
Messrs. Orme and Sons’ rooms, Blackfriars Street, Manchester
between 12th-19th March 1888. A Scottish area qualification was set
up at Dumfries to accommodate the two entries from that country, and
the remainder met at the Argyll Hall, London, between 12th-14th March
1888. Owing to the ownership of the Argyll Hall changing hands whilst
the competition was in progress, the final heat of the Southern division
was played at the Oriental Restaurant, New Bridge Street, Blackfriars.
The winners from the three sections would play the closing rounds at
Orme & Sons showrooms in Manchester.
from the first Championship.
Controversy was never far away from
this event and it started when the winner
of the Southern section, Sam Christey,
was disqualified on objection from one
of his opponents, W. D. Courtney. The
complaint was based on the fact that
Christey had taken part in a tournament
in April 1887 which involved
professional players, and by so doing,
he was no longer entitled to compete in
an amateur event. The tournament in
question had been advertised as “open
to amateurs and markers” who could, if
they chose, play under a pseudonym
and this would not endanger their
amateur status. However, Orme’s
representatives took a different view and
disqualified Christey. The players who
he had beaten in the qualifying section,
played off to determine the Southern
qualifier. Courtney won this section and
progressed to the closing stages.
There was further controversy when
Courtney arrived in Manchester to play
what he understood to be a final heat
against the Northern Champion. It was
only then that he found out that there
were three players still in the competition
and he was drawn to play a further qualifying match against the Scottish candidate. He managed to win
this easily enough, but further complication arose when Sam Christey
also turned up at the venue. Before the final could be started, Christey
raised a objection against Courtney playing in the game, saying that, as
he had beaten him in London, he ought to take his place. However, this
protest was overruled.
All these disputes may have affected Courtney, for he was beaten
comfortably in the final by Mr. H. A. O. Lonsdale who by this win,
became the first Amateur Champion of Great Britain and Ireland on
28th March 1888.
|1888 Mar.||H. A. 0. Lonsdale||W. D. Courtney||500 – 334|
After this, the competition reverted to a challenge basis under the
following conditions. “Any amateur, upon payment of one guinea, can
challenge the holder of the cup, and the game must take place in the nearest city to where the latter resides”. The Champion was bound to
defend his title within three months of receiving a challenge – and these
were not long in arriving!
On 12th December 1888, Lonsdale was required to meet the challenge
of A. P. Gaskell (London) in a game which had been extended to 1,500
up in recognition of the competitors proficiency at making breaks with
the “spot stroke” – at this time the most popular method of break
building. The match took place at Orme & Sons Saloon, Manchester
and Gaskell won by 151 points, with the highest break being one of 75
by the loser.
|1888 Dec.||A. P. Gaskell||H. A. 0. Lonsdale||1500 – 1349|
Mr. Rackets (Boston) was the next challenger for the title, but owing to
illness he was forced to concede the match, which was awarded to
|1889 Mar.||A. P. Gaskell||– declared Champion.|
E. W. Alabone next challenged the holder, and the match of 1,500 up
was played at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster. Gaskell retained his
title by 222 points and had the highest breaks with 94 and 88.
|1889 Jul.||A. P. Gaskell||E. W. Alabone||1500 – 1278|
Within six months Gaskell was in action again to meet the challenge of
Sidney Fry and the match was played at the Prince’s Hall, Piccadilly.
Gaskell retained his title by 105 points and also made the highest break
of 98. Sidney Fry was at this time receiving lessons from the great John
Roberts, who, after finishing his game at the nearby Egyptian Hall,
attended the match to observe the progress of his pupil.
|1890 Jan.||A. P. Gaskell||S. H. Fry||1500 – 1395|
It was a condition of the championship that as soon as a challenge had
been published it was also open to any other amateur to send in his
entry fee and announce his intention to take part. Now three challenges
were received from N. Defries (London), E. W. Alabone (London) and
Harry Hardy (Manchester) who played a round-robin tournament at
The Portman Rooms, Baker Street, for the right to meet the champion.
The games of 1,500 up commenced on 29th April 1890 and the winner
of the eliminating matches was N. Defries who defeated both his
opponents. Defries was a well-known member of John Roberts’ Club
in Gutter Lane where his play was highly regarded. However, he made
no impression in his match against the Champion, going down to a
heavy defeat by 694 points on 1st May. Gaskell made the highest
break with 114 which set a new championship record.
|1890 May||A. P. Gaskell||N. Defries||1500 – 805|
Gaskell had now won the title five times and required just one more win
to take possession of the trophy. Challenges were received from two
players, F. A. Lindner (Birmingham) and W. D. Courtney (London)
and they played off at the Prince’s Hall, Piccadilly on 7th October
1890 for the right to meet the champion. Courtney defeated Lindner by
457 points and the following day met Gaskell, defeating the champion
in an exciting match by 89 points. Courtney had breaks of 111, 89 and
83, while Gaskell had two breaks of 105. There was an unusually high
level of betting upon the game, the holder being a very hot favourite.
When Gaskell took an early lead he was considered such a certainty
that odds of “£100 to a shilling cigar” were offered. One person in the
audience was astute enough to take these odds and was promptly paid
after the match. However, Courtney himself was less fortunate. Having
wagered £5 on the result, he never managed to collect his winnings.
Additionally, on returning to the dressing-room, he found that someone
had stolen his coat, together with a five-pound note which had been in
one of his pockets.
|1890 Oct.||W. D. Courtney||A. P. Gaskell||1500 – 1141|
Following his defeat, Gaskell immediately challenged for the title and
was joined by Sidney Fry, the pair playing for the right to meet Courtney
at Orme & Son’s Showrooms, Soho Square on 14th January 1891.
Gaskell defeated Fry by 208 points making a new championship record
break of 156 in the process. But in the final, which was held the
following day, he could not overcome Courtney who won easily by
529 points, without either player making a century break.
|1891 Jan.||W. D. Courtney||A. P. Gaskell||1500 – 971|
achieving his ambition.
Undeterred by these two defeats, Mr.
Gaskell again raised a challenge as did four
other players: J. A. Pennycuick who made
the long journey from Airdrie in Scotland,
Arthur Wisdom (Southsea), F. A. Lindner
(Birmingham), and a player using the
pseudonym “Ormonde” from London.
The challengers played off to meet
Courtney on a knock-out basis at Orme &
Son’s Showrooms, Soho Square starting
on 13th April 1891. Gaskell eventually
proved the best of the challengers with a
victory over Arthur Wisdom which included a break of 157. In the championship match, Gaskell defeated
Courtney by 312 points making a new record break of 277 and another
of 136. By this sixth victory, Gaskell took possession of the
Championship cup and having achieved his ambition, he resigned the
title in favour of Courtney, playing very little in public after this date.
However, Courtney would never be seen again in the amateur
championship as he also resigned as “Champion” before another contest
could be held and joined the professional ranks.
|1891 Apr.||A. P. Gaskell||W. D. Courtney||1500 – 1188|
Billiard Association Championship of Great Britain
On 21st January 1892, the subject of promoting an amateur
championship was revived in earnest by the Billiard Association. At an
Extraordinary General Meeting, it was proposed that an “Amateur
Championship of Great Britain” be instigated under essentially the
same terms as those operated by the Orme & Sons competition. But
Orme’s were not keen to give up their championship. There had been
lengthy correspondence between the two organisations resulting in a
statement from Orme’s saying that they “could not see their way to
amalgamating their competition with that of the Billiard Association.”
Nevertheless, the Billiards Association resolved to proceed with their
Orme & Sons’ Championship of Great Britain & Ireland
A few days after the meeting of the Billiards Association, the following
advertisement appeared : “Messrs. Orme and Sons have received from
Mr. W. D. Courtney his resignation of the title of Amateur Billiard
Champion. Gentlemen challenging before February 20th will play off
as soon after that date as is convenient to the challengers, and the game
will be played in London.” The tournament commenced on 21st March
1892 at Orme & Son’s Showrooms, Soho Square with the following
players taking part in a “round-robin” contest: J. A. Pennycuick
(Glasgow), Arthur Wisdom (Southsea), “Hazard” (Manchester),
“Osborne” (London). Arthur Wisdom made a break of 225 in his first
match against Pennycuick and another of 241 against “Hazard”. In his
final game against “Osborne” he bettered both of these with a run of
264 to take the title with wins against all his opponents. There was a
balance of 406 points in his favour at the finish of the contest on 26th
|1892 Mar.||Arthur Wisdom||Osbourne||1500 – 1094|
Billiard Association Championship of Great Britain
Meanwhile, the Billiard Association were pushing on with preparations
for their championship. In April 1892, a cup weighing 117 ounces was
selected as the championship trophy and by 4th May, which was the
closing date for entries, six players had been accepted, these being
Messrs. Sidney Fry, E. W. Alabone; A. H. Vahid, H. Clark, J. Barcroft,
and Sam Christey. It may be remembered that Christey, after easily
defeating Mr. W. D. Courtney in the first contest for the Championship
promoted by Messrs. Orme and Sons, was declared a professional and
disqualified. Christey, however, had taken the matter before the
Committee of the Billiard Association who considered that his case
presented “many extenuating circumstances”, and they decided to
reinstate him as an amateur.
The first Billiard Association championship was played at the Royal
Aquarium, London, on a “Standard” table supplied by Geo. Wright &
Co. On 12th May 1892 the competition had resolved itself into a final
match between Sidney Fry and Sam Christey. In the game of 1,500 up
Christey made record breaks of 287 and 297 (98 spots) defeating Fry
by 572 points. Christey was never again challenged to defend his title
and the trophy became his property after three years.
|1892 May||Sam Christey||Sidney Fry||1500 – 928|
Billiard Association : Spot-barred Championship
Sam Christey’s superiority with the “spot-stroke” was so
overwhelming that it quickly became evident that any attempt to take
the title from him would be hopeless. Under these circumstances, at a
meeting of the Billiard Association, held on 13th June 1892, it was
resolved to limit the spot-stroke by instituting a new “Spot-Barred”
Amateur Championship of Great Britain, and another challenge cup
was acquired. This competition was contested for the first time between
15th January and 2nd February 1893, at the National Sporting Club,
London, the six competitors being Messrs. Sam Christey, Sidney Fry,
A. H. Vahid, A. R. Wisdom, J. Barcroft, and W. Bailey. Heats were
1,000-up and the final 1,500-up. In his first round match against Christey,
Arthur Wisdom made a break of 153 and had a session average of 18.55,
establishing a new record. However, Christey, in the last session, had
breaks of 127, 86 and 74, and an average of 13.48 to win the match. The
final was between A. H. Vahid and Sam Christey, with the former –
who was a native of India – gaining an extremely popular victory by
105 points. However, his reign would not last long as on 20th March he
would resign the title having taken employment as a Marker, and
therefore becoming classed as a professional.
|1893 Jan.||A. H. Vahid||Sam Christey||1500 – 1395|
Orme & Sons’ Championship of Great Britain & Ireland
Meanwhile, in the rival championship, Arthur Wisdom had received a
challenge from Mr. Buxton and the match of 1,500 up was arranged to
be played at Orme & Son’s Showrooms, Soho Square at the same time
that the closing stages of the Billiard Association championship was
being decided in another part of London. Wisdom was never in danger
of losing his title, winning easily by 648 points on 1st February 1893
|1893 Feb.||Arthur Wisdom||Mr. Buxton||1500 – 852|
A few weeks after this contest, the rivalry between Messrs. Orme and
Sons and the Billiard Association came to an end when Orme’s announced
that they had decided to bring their Championship to a close in favour
of that promoted by the Association. With this view, their cup, then
held by Mr. A. R. Wisdom, would be contested for outright ownership
on the following rather curious conditions: “That challengers would
meet to decide who should oppose the holder, and the winner of this
competition would play the best of three games of 1,000 up with Mr.
Wisdom. If the Champion won, the cup would become his property,
but if the challenger proved successful, he and Mr. Wisdom would have
to play a final game of 1,500 up.” Sidney Fry and A. H. Vahid (in his
last days as an amateur) were the only challengers, and played a game
of 1,000 up at Orme’s Showrooms, Soho Square, to decide which of
them would play Wisdom. Fry won this match comfortably by 398
points. Fry then defeated Wisdom three times off the reel, 1,000- 989,
1,000-685, and 1,500-1,239 the matches concluding on 16th March
1893. In all these games Fry only made one three figure break (100),
while Wisdom’s best effort was just 114.
|1893 Mar.||Sidney Fry||Arthur Wisdom||1500 – 1239|
Billiard Association : Spot-barred Championship
After the resignation of Mr. Vahid, the Billiard Association’s “spot-
barred” championship remained in abeyance until 21st May 1894,
when Messrs. Sam Christey, Arthur Wisdom, J. A. Pennycuick
(Glasgow), W. J. Austin (Australia), A. Vinson, W. T. Maughan
(Middlesbrough), and H. Mitchell (Blackburn) all entered the
competition which was held at the Argyll Hall, London. The entry of
an Australian player seems somewhat strange for a British
Championship, but being of an international character, it should have
proved a great success. Unfortunately, it was just the reverse, being
little more than a catalogue of misfortunes from start to finish. The
problems started when Mr. Christey had to give the game to his
opponent after the first session, owing to the serious illness of one of
his family. Then Mr. Pennycuick was himself too unwell to play at all,
whilst Mr. Austin, after struggling pluckily against indisposition when
leading Mr. Vinson, became much worse, and was forced to resign the
game. In the final Mr. Mitchell just managed to defeat Mr. Vinson by
the narrow margin of 36 points on 25th May 1894.
|1894 May||H. Mitchell||A. Vinson||1500 – 1464|
The moderate play, and absences due to illness in this championship
probably accounted for the fact that another challenge was issued in the
autumn of 1894. Held at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden
on a table supplied by Orme & Sons, the heats were 1,000 up and the
final 1,500 up. There were three challengers who played for the right to
meet Mitchell, these were: Sam Christey, W. T. Maughan
(Middlesbrough) and Sidney Fry. The Middlesbrough player beat
Messrs. Christey and Fry in turn, with plenty in hand in each game,
and on 6th December, Maughan went on to take the title by defeating
H. Mitchell in the final. Mitchell made the best break with 92.
|1894 Dec.||W. T. Maughan||H. Mitchell||1500 – 1202|
Mr. Maughan was allowed to rest on his laurels until March, 1896,
when Messrs. Sidney Fry, Sam Christey, Arthur Wisdom, F. B.
Edwardson, and Walter Lovejoy all joined in a challenge against him.
Due to continuing controversy and public debate about the push-stroke
it was barred from the Amateur Championship for the first time during
this contest which was again held at the National Sporting Club, Covent
Garden. These conditions anticipated a general revision to the rules of
billiards which would take place in 1898. Sidney Fry emerged successful
from the preliminary heats and he then defeated Maughan in the
Championship match. Their best breaks were Fry 73 (three times) and
Maughan 72, the wining margin being only 70 points. No doubt Mr.
Maughan would have taken an early opportunity of attempting to
reverse this verdict, but he died not long afterwards.
|1896 Mar.||S. H. Fry||W. T. Maughan||1500 – 1430|
Billiard Association : Amateur Championship
The Championship then lapsed for several years before being revived
by the Billiard Association and played under the new revised rules of
billiards which had now formally barred the push-stroke and restricted
the spot-stroke by introducing the current “two-pot” rule. The
competition was staged at the National Sporting Club in March 1899.
Sidney Fry had held the trophy for almost the stipulated three years
which would have made it his property, some also felt that as the
“spot-barred” championship had been abolished by the introduction
of the new rules, that Fry had a claim to the trophy on these grounds
alone. However, Fry was willing to defend the trophy and seven
challengers played off in heats of 1,000 up for the right to meet him.
They were E. C. Ogden, Sam Christey, Fred Wear, F. W. Payne, A.
Vahid, M. A. Oxlade and Arthur Wisdom. The latter qualified to meet
the holder in the final, and, playing a fine consistent game, beat him by
203 points, in spite of a record break of 168 by Fry.
|1899 Mar.||Arthur Wisdom||Sidney Fry||1500 – 1297|
The National Sporting Club was again the venue the following year, the
challengers for Wisdom’s title on this occasion being Sidney Fry, Walter
Lovejoy, Sam Christey, A. Jordan and F. A. Lindner. Sidney Fry won
through the 1,000-up heats, making a break of 106 in one of his games.
Then a close contest against the holder resulted in Fry being victorious
by a narrow margin of 72 points
|1900 Mar.||Sidney Fry||Arthur Wisdom||1500 – 1428|
Sidney Fry subsequently resigned the championship under the
impression that he would have to travel to Australia before he could
defend it. As it transpired this was not the case, but in his absence ten
competitors gathered at the Gaiety Restaurant, Strand, in a straight
knock-out competition to decide a new holder for the championship
Part 2 : A New Millenium
In the first part of our account we covered the beginnings of the National Championship for English billiard players. The original Orme & Sons
trophy had been won outright by A. P. Gaskell in 1891. This magnificent trophy was capable of holding a case of champagne and was a copy of
the famous Pourtales vase in the British Museum. Their second trophy had become the personal property of Sidney Fry in 1893 when the Orme
& Sons Championship finished. Now the chase was on to take possession the new Billiards Association Championship cup first awarded in 1899.
the 1901 Championship.
Sidney Fry, winner of the Championship in March 1900
resigned the title due to a pending
business trip to Australia. He
subsequently decided to give up
playing billiards altogether in
preference to his new hobby of golf, at
which he also became one of the best
amateurs in the country. His absence
however, would only be temporary
and some years later he would again
take up his cue on his way to setting
new championship records.
To find the new holder for the Billiard
Association Championship cup, ten
players gathered at the Gaiety
Restaurant, Strand, in a straight knockout competition. The heats were 1,000 up and commenced on 21st
January 1901. The competitors were: F. A. Smith, C. D. Macklem, W.
S. Jones, Ernest Breed, Arthur Wisdom, Albert Good, Sam Christey, E.
C. Ogden, Fred Wear and F. Dennis. For the first time, a professional
player was engaged to be referee and this duty was undertaken by John
Lloyd, now nearing the end of a career which at it’s height had seen him
hold the Welsh Professional Championship.
The competition had just started when news came through on 22nd
January of the death of Queen Victoria. The Billiard Association
immediately suspended play in the Championship until after the funeral
which was consequently resumed on 4th February 1901. The final of
1,500 up resolved itself into a match between Samuel Christey and W.
S. Jones. Christey made a break of 110 in this match which was the
highest of the competition, winning by 195 points.
|1901 Feb||Sam Christey||W. S. Jones||1500 – 1305|
famous cyclist, and regularly
entered the Championship over
a period of 30 years.
In 1902 the championship venue moved to Thurston’s Grand Hall,
Leicester Square, and was played between 17th-27th February. Although
the heats remained at 1,000-up the final
was now extended to 2,000-up and
John Lloyd was again engaged as
referee. Nine challengers competed for
the right to met Sam Christey. They
were: Richard H. Fry (younger brother
of the ex-champion), Ernest Breed,
Maurice Fitzgerald (Ireland), B. J.
Monro, Fred Wear, D. Sheppard,
Albert Good, E. C. Ogden and Lewis
Stroud. In his day, Lewis Stroud had
the distinction of being one of the
country’s foremost racing cyclists,
being the English 50-miles champion
in 1893, and at one time held practically
all the tricycle records. He would be a
regular participant in the Billiards
Championship for the next thirty
red-ball break in 1902.
Albert Good emerged as the best of
the challengers and then defeated Sam
Christey by 311 points. Christey made
a break of 122 which was the highest
in the competition. Other century
breaks were made by Good 109;
Fitzgerald 116; and Breed 102.
from Amateur competitions.
Maurice Fitzgerald was a player of
great potential, and although he did not
make a showing in this Championship,
he came to the event as Irish Champion
and with two double-century breaks
to his credit. A charming personality,
he had made himself immenselypopular whilst in England. However, on his way back to Ireland he
stayed at an hotel for a week, giving exhibitions of his skill every
evening, and accepted in return, payment for his accommodation. This
was reported to the Billiard Association who were obliged to disqualify
him from playing again as an amateur.
|1902 Feb||Albert Good||Sam Christey||2000 – 1689|
his first attempt.
Later the same year, the championship was again held at Thurston’s
Grand Hall commencing on 27th October 1902. Using the same format,
eight challengers competed for the right to meet Albert Good. In addition
to Richard H. Fry, they included another member of the Fry family, R.
S. Fry. The remainder of the field were F. H. Price, Bert Moy, Sam Christey, A. J. Browne, C. V. Diehl
and C. D. Macklem. The latter was a
Canadian National who had been
resident in London for some time. He
took part in the Championship on
several occasions before returning to
Toronto following the 1903 event.
In the final match on 5th November
1902, Bert Good successfully defended
his title by comfortably defeating A.
J. Browne who was making his first appearance in the
Championship. In this match Good made an amateur record of 153 from the red ball in a break of 155. He
subsequently applied to the Billiard Association for a certificate, but at
this time they were not disposed to give certificates to amateur players,
and his request was refused.
|1902 Oct||Albert Good||A. J. Browne||2000 – 1669|
The 1903 championship proved to be the most popular since the
inaugural event in 1888, with 18 challengers competing for the right to
met Bert Good. It was again held at Thurston’s Grand Hall between
2nd-21st March 1903, with heats of 1,000 up and the final 2,000 up.
The players were: C. V. Diehl, W. Bradshaw, J. W. Evison, J. H. Morgan(Glasgow), Richard H. Fry, E. E.
Briggs, H. L. Goldborne, Mr. Park,
Arthur Wisdom, Sam Christey, Fred
Wear, Bert Moy, Ernest Breed, W. S.
Jones, H. J. Moore, J. W. Evison and “Jerry” Jeremiah (Wales). In
his opening match against Christey,
Arthur Wisdom made a break of 153
in averaging 18.6 for the afternoon
session, which was a record for the
championship. He proved the best of
the challengers and was favourite to
take the title, partly because Good had
not been in the best of health for some
little time. However, rising to the
occasion, Good secured a useful lead at the end of the first session, but could not maintain the effort in the
evening, as Wisdom averaged 18.0 to take the lead and stay there for the
rest of the match. Good made breaks of 106 and 102, mainly from red
ball play, but could not match the consistency of Wisdom who won by
217 points. The only other century break in the competition was by
Sam Christey who made 127.
|1903 Mar||Arthur Wisdom||Albert Good||2000 – 1783|
Later that year, Thurston’s Grand Hall provided the venue for another
championship which was played between 27th November-4th
December 1903. Due to a family bereavement, Arthur Wisdom was
unable to defend the title and seven players competed to find a new
champion. They were: C. V. Diehl, Fred Wear, C. D. Macklem, Herbert
Moy, Sam Christey, E. E. Briggs and Bert Good.
wearing carpet slippers.
One of the more interesting characters was Fred Wear, who was a good
player with either right of left hand, but never did himself justice in the
Championship where nerves always seemed to overcome him. In one instance after using his handkerchief
to wipe his forehead, instead of
returning it to his pocket, he deposited
it in one of the corner pockets of the
billiard table. Christey won the title
by defeating C. V. Diehl in the final by
686 points, making a break of 125. C.
D. Macklem made the only other
century in the competition with 120 in
one of the earlier heats.
Diehl was a journalist on the staff of
one of the leading newspapers of the
day. There is no doubt that, like many
another aspirant to the Amateur
Championship, he rarely showed
anything like his best form when playing for the highest honour. He stood at the table with his legs more
widely apart than any other leading player, and was in the habit of
wearing a pair of felt slippers when he was engaged in any important
game. This naturally made him the recipient of a good deal of wry
comment, which he always accepted in the most good-humoured fashion.
Although a regular competitor, his appearance in the 1903 final was the
nearest he ever got to the object of his ambition.
|1903 Dec||Sam Christey||Charles V. Diehl||2000 – 1314|
Shortly after his victory, the champion, Sam Christey, decided to resign
his title amid new rumours regarding his amateur status, so in March
1904 eleven entries gathered to find a new champion. These included
Albert Good, V. L. Sim (New Zealand), Walter Lovejoy, Ernest Breed,
Harry Virr, W. Bradshaw, C. H. Mortimer, and Bert Moy.
Ash cue weighing 12oz.
New Zealander, V. L. Sim, had acquitted himself well in exhibition
games with Harry Stevenson when the latter was visiting New Zealand
during one of his numerous tours abroad. His entry came about because
the professional champion, knowing that Sim was coming to England
on business, advised him to try for the Amateur Championship. Unfortunately he had never had the
opportunity to play with anything but
composition balls, which, of course,
was a very serious handicap in a
Championship played with ivories, and
not surprisingly he made an early exit.
Walter Lovejoy was a much improved
player since his previous appearance
in 1900. He averaged 26.31 in the
second session (500 points) of one of
his preliminary matches, which was the
highest seen in the Championship since
records had been taken. In the final heat
he defeated Albert Good making breaks
of 135 and 103 which helped him to a
victory by 269 points. Lovejoy had an extremely unorthodox style of play and used a plain ash cue, weighing
only 12 ounces. Soon after his championship win he resigned the title
and turned professional.
|1904 Mar||Walter Lovejoy||Albert Good||2000 – 1733|
record break but still lost.
The system of challenges was discarded for the 1905 championship
and the present system of annual contests was established. Preliminary rounds were now introduced at regional
venues to ease the difficulty of
competitors travelling to London.
Although invited, Scotland did not enter
any players and qualifying
competitions were held in London,
Manchester, and Dublin. These were
won by Albert Good, George
Heginbottom and A. T. Marsh
respectively. The Competition Proper
was played at Thurston’s, Leicester
Square in March 1905. The final saw
the Manchester cotton-broker,
Heginbottom, make a championship
record break of 174 but Good took the
title for the third time, winning by 261
|1905 Mar||Albert Good||Geo. Heginbottom||2000 – 1739|
caused him to resign and become professional.
Abandoning their short experiment of
regional locations, the Billiard Association
arranged the preliminary stages of 1906
Amateur Championship for March 1906
at Cox & Yeman’s Hall in Brompton Road,
London, with the final moving to the
Argyll Hall. Using a different venue for
the final meant that the champion was
not obliged to play against an opponent
who had the benefit of several preliminary
games on the match-table. However, as a
result of general dissatisfaction with the
arrangements for this Championship there
were only seven challengers for the title
held by Albert Good. Amongst these was Samuel Christey who had managed to satisfy the Billiard Association
regarding his amateur status. The remaining players were W. Bradshaw,
C. H. Mortimer, George Heginbottom, Ernest Breed, A. T. Marsh
(Ireland) and A. E. Mainwaring. Ernest Breed won the qualifying
competition and in the challenge round defeated Good by 380 points
with a match average of 18.6. There now followed considerable
controversy regarding Breed’s status as an amateur player which resulted
in him resigning the title in January 1907 and taking up a career as a
|1906 Mar||Ernest Breed||Albert Good||2000 – 1620|
Championship win in 1907.
For the 1907 Championship regional competitions were brought back and arranged for London, Manchester,
Edinburgh and Dublin (which was the
Irish Championship) and all
commenced in February 1907. The
London Qualifying Competition
resulted in a victory for Arthur
Wisdom. Manchester produced an
unexpected win for Harry Virr over H.
A. O. Lonsdale and in Edinburgh, Mr.
J. F. Lessels was lucky enough to be
unopposed. The Irish Championship
was won by Jack Nugent with a
narrow victory over A. T. Marsh. At
one period of this match the referee
had to ask the audience to stop
smoking for a few minutes, owing to
the cloud of smoke which hung over
the table being so thick that play was
becoming impossible. All four regional winners passed to the competition proper which was held between
7th-11th March 1907 at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden.
Harry Virr defeated Arthur Wisdom by a mere 16 points before taking
the title by holding off a strong challenge by the Irish Champion, Jack
Nugent, in the final. This time winning by just 14 points!
|1907 Mar||Harry Virr||Jack Nugent||2000 – 1986|
in England to be fined for
‘furious driving’ in a motor car.
In 1908 a West of England qualifying section was introduced and played
at Plymouth. The other regions were London, Manchester, the Irish Championship in Dublin and the
Welsh Championship. These were
won by M. W. Parkyn, C. E. Jenkins,
George Heginbottom and J. M.
Meldon respectively and they were
joined by the Welsh Champion,
“Jerry” Jeremiah. The London
qualifier, C. E. Jenkins, was another
of the more colourful characters to
have graced the championship. He had
been the amateur champion cyclist of
South Wales, and also claimed the
record for the longest authenticated
motorcycle ride (4,600 miles in 52
days) Not least of his achievements
was that he became the first motorist
in England to be convicted and fined
for “furious driving” in a motor car. His best all-round break was 228 although during the 1907 season of
cradle cannons he had put together a run of 1,280 by this means.
The various group winners came together in the Competition proper,
playing off for the right to meet the Champion. It was tacitly understood
that the holder would defend his title in the town or country of his residence. For this reason, the closing stages were held at the showrooms
of Messrs. Sykes, Horbury, Leeds, between 9th-14th March 1908.
George Heginbottom, won through to oppose the holder, Harry Virr of
Bradford, having set a new championship record with a break of 188
when eliminating C. E. Jenkins in an earlier heat. However, Virr retained
his title by 159 points in front of his home crowd despite a strong
challenge from Heginbottom which included another big break of 160.
A contemporary reporter said “the wild scene’s of enthusiasm at the
close were unparalleled in billiard history.” After than match Virr
modestly played down his achievement, saying of his opponent “He is
a lot better player than I am, and in fact, I think, the best amateur who
ever handled a cue.” Virr is probably still the only champion to have
acclaimed his rival in this way. Yorkshire Professional Champion, George
Nelson, officiated as referee after the first day, and acted as general
|1908 Mar||Harry Virr||Geo. Heginbottom||2000 – 1841|
at his first attempt.
In 1909, Major H. L. Fleming became the first player since the inaugural
event to win the Championship at his first attempt. In fact his entry only came about
by the greatest stroke of fortune. He had
been stationed in Calcutta at an Indian
musketry school where he and others drew
a sweepstake ticket for a horse which ran
third in the Calcutta Derby. Each member
of the syndicate profited to the tune of
£600 and it was on the strength of this that
he took a trip back to England and entered
The final stages of the competition were
held in The Mechanic’s Institute, Bradford
which had a capacity for about 1,000
spectators. During the two days play of
the final match, the hall was crowded to excess and an even larger number were refused admission, but Major
Fleming, undaunted by the overwhelming support for his opponent,
completed an amazing win by almost 500 points. In one of the earlier
heats he equalled Bert Good’s amateur record with a break of 153 made
entirely from the red ball.
|1909 May||H. L. Fleming||Harry Virr||2000 – 1501|
As a compliment to Major Fleming, who came from Scotland, it was
decided that the competition proper for the 1910 Championship should
take place at the Imperial Billiard Rooms, Mitchell Street, Glasgow,
commencing on 28th February.
H. A. O. Lonsdale from Manchester (the winner of the inaugural event
in 1888) and Harry Virr (Bradford) were at this time constant opponents
and rivals, but were also great friends. Lonsdale took the defeat of Virr
very much to heart, and felt so confident of his own ability to defeat
Fleming, that he persuaded his friend not to enter their qualifying
section and “allow him to bring the Championship back to England”.
There was quite a good entry which totalled 40 for the various areas.
Three regional groups were set up for the English section in addition to
the Championships of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. In the South of
England Area, Albert Good, a former champion, was compelled to
withdraw owing to the death of his father, but the interest in this area
was nevertheless enhanced by the entry of Mr. E. H. Hinds, who came
from Hong Kong with excellent credentials. These were justified as he
went on to win the Southern Area championship. Lonsdale, in the
absence of Harry Virr, won in the North of England, and they were
joined in the competition proper by C. L. Taylor (West of England), J.
Nugent (Champion of Ireland), R. Blair (Champion of Scotland), and
W. Edgar Thomas (Champion of Wales).
Major Fleming had exercised his right not to play in the qualifying
competition, allowing the others to play-off for the right to meet him.
As he would have been seeded in the opposite side if the draw to
Lonsdale, some thought that this decision was a mistake. Lonsdale
reached the final with the advantage of three matches on the table
before Fleming had struck a ball, and the critics seemed to be justified as
Fleming only began to show good form in the final session, by which
time he was too far behind to affect the result. Thus Lonsdale set the
incredible record of winning the Championship again after a lapse of
almost 22 years!
|1910||H. A. 0. Lonsdale||Major Fleming||2000 – 1882|